Understanding Wisdom Teeth: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options
Third molar teeth, commonly referred to as wisdom teeth, usually come in during a person’s late teens or early twenties. While some individuals have no issues with their wisdom teeth, others may experience complications such as impacted teeth or tooth decay. Impacted wisdom teeth can cause discomfort, pain, and potential problems for nearby teeth. Read on to better understand this common dental issue.
What are Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth, also known as third molar teeth, are the last set of molars in the human mouth. They typically emerge in late adolescence or early adulthood, often between 17 and 25, although the timing can vary among individuals. Here are some key characteristics and information about wisdom teeth:
- Location: Wisdom teeth are located at the back of the mouth, one on each side of the upper and lower jaws. There are usually 4 wisdom teeth in total—two in the upper jaw and two in the lower jaw.
- Function: When they grow in correctly and align with the other teeth, wisdom teeth serve the same function as other molars. They aid in chewing and grinding food, helping to break down food particles into smaller pieces for digestion.
- Development: The development of wisdom teeth is a natural part of dental growth and typically occurs during the transition from adolescence to adulthood. As these teeth are the last to develop, they received the name “wisdom teeth.”
- Dental Problems: Wisdom teeth can sometimes cause dental problems due to their late development and the limited space in modern human jaws. Common issues associated with wisdom teeth include impaction (when they don’t fully emerge through the gum line), misalignment, and overcrowding of other teeth. These problems can lead to pain, discomfort, and potential oral health issues.
- Removal: Many people undergo wisdom teeth extraction, a dental procedure in which one or more wisdom teeth are removed. This often prevents and alleviates complications associated with impacted or misaligned wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth removal is a routine dental procedure.
- Variability: Not everyone develops wisdom teeth, and some individuals may have one, two, three, or all four. The presence and development of a wisdom tooth may vary from person to person.
How many Wisdom Teeth are there?
In most cases, there are a total of four wisdom teeth in the human mouth. These are often referred to as “third molars” because they are the third set of molars in addition to the first and second molars in each mouth quadrant. Here’s the usual breakdown of wisdom teeth:
- Two wisdom teeth in the upper Jaw: One on the upper right side and one on the upper left side.
- Two wisdom teeth in the lower Jaw: One on the lower right side and one on the lower left side.
However, it’s important to remember that not everyone develops all their wisdom teeth, and some individuals may have fewer or even none at all. The presence and development of wisdom teeth can vary from person to person, and it’s not uncommon for some individuals to have one, two, three, or all wisdom teeth. In contrast, others may have none due to evolutionary changes in jaw size and dietary habits.
What are upper Wisdom Teeth for?
Wisdom teeth were once essential for our ancestors, who had different dietary habits. These large, flat molars at the back of the mouth were useful for grinding down tough, coarse foods like roots, leaves, and uncooked meat. However, the need for these extra molars diminished as human diets evolved and became softer and more processed. Today, wisdom teeth have mainly become vestigial, often causing more problems than benefits due to their tendency to become impacted or misaligned. While some individuals may still have enough space and proper alignment for their wisdom teeth to function correctly, many people experience complications, necessitating their removal to maintain oral health. Advanced orthodontic treatment or molar teeth removal in their youth may allow enough room for patients to retain upper or lower wisdom teeth as permanent teeth.
Do you have to have your four Wisdom Teeth removed?
No, you do not have to have your wisdom teeth removed as a blanket rule. The necessity for a wisdom tooth removal depends on several factors, including the individual’s oral health, the position and alignment of the wisdom tooth, and the presence of any associated complications from removing wisdom teeth. Here are some considerations:
- Oral Health: If your wisdom tooth is healthy, fully erupted, properly aligned, and does not cause any pain or discomfort, there may be no need for removal. You can keep them as part of your natural dentition and continue regular dental care.
- Complications: A wisdom tooth can often cause problems such as impaction (when they don’t fully emerge), misalignment, or overcrowding of other teeth. If you experience pain, infection, gum inflammation, cysts, or other dental issues related to your wisdom tooth, your dentist may recommend removal to address these complications.
- Monitoring: For some individuals, monitoring the development and positioning of a wisdom tooth over time may be appropriate. Regular dental check-ups and X-rays can help your dentist assess its progress and whether removal is necessary based on changes in conditions.
- Individual Variability: The decision to remove wisdom teeth varies from person to person. Some people never develop a wisdom tooth, while others may have a perfectly healthy wisdom tooth that does not require extraction. It is common for individuals to experience issues with their wisdom tooth that warrant removal.
Ultimately, the decision to remove your wisdom teeth should be made in consultation with your dentist. They are in the best position to evaluate your oral health and assess the status of your wisdom teeth and any associated symptoms or complications before recommending a course of action. It’s essential to follow your dentist’s advice and undergo the treatment necessary to maintain your oral health and prevent potential problems in the future.
Understanding Wisdom Teeth Impaction
As wisdom teeth are located at the very back of the mouth and grow in after your other adult teeth, they commonly cause dental health problems. Many people experience impaction, a condition where the wisdom teeth do not fully emerge or grow in at an angle, causing various issues.
Causes of Wisdom Teeth Impaction:
- Lack of Space: The most common reason for wisdom teeth impaction is a lack of space in the jaw. As our ancestors had larger jaws, modern humans often have jaws that are too small to accommodate the additional teeth.
- Angle of Growth: Wisdom teeth may grow in at an odd angle, sideways, or even backward, causing them to become impacted against neighbouring teeth or a tooth’s roots.
- Delayed Eruption: Wisdom teeth typically emerge in the late teen or early twenties, but sometimes, they may not erupt until much later in life. This delayed eruption can lead to impaction.
- Genetics: Your genetics play a role in determining whether you will experience wisdom teeth impaction. If your parents or grandparents had impacted wisdom teeth, you may be more likely to experience the same issue.
Symptoms of Impacted Wisdom Teeth
Not everyone with impacted wisdom teeth will experience symptoms, but they can range from mild to severe when symptoms do occur. Common signs of impacted wisdom teeth include:
- Pain or Discomfort: This is often the most noticeable symptom, with pain in the back of the mouth, jaw, or ear requiring the patient to take pain relief medication.
- Swelling and Inflammation: The gum tissue around the impacted tooth may become red, swollen, and tender.
- Bad Breath or Unpleasant Taste: Wisdom teeth can be challenging to clean properly, even with dental floss, leading to bacterial buildup and poor breath.
- Difficulty Opening Mouth: In some cases, the limited space in the mouth due to impaction can make it challenging to open the mouth fully.
- Headaches: Pain from wisdom teeth can radiate to other areas of the head, causing headaches.
Treatment Options for Wisdom Teeth
- Observation: Not all wisdom teeth require immediate treatment. Your dentist may choose to monitor your condition and recommend treatment only if complications arise.
- Extraction: The most common treatment for wisdom teeth is extraction. The procedure is usually performed under local or general anaesthesia. Afterwards, you may experience discomfort and swelling, but most patients recover fully within a few weeks.
- Antibiotics: If an infection develops due to an impacted wisdom tooth, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection.
- Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain or prescription medications can help manage pain and inflammation associated with wisdom teeth.
- Preventive Care: Good oral hygiene practices, such as regular dental check-ups and proper brushing and flossing, can help prevent complications from wisdom teeth.
What is the Difference between Wisdom Teeth vs Molars?
Wisdom teeth and molar teeth are both types of teeth in the human mouth, but they have some key differences in terms of their location, function, and development:
- Wisdom Teeth (Third Molars): Wisdom teeth are the last set of molars and are located at the back of the mouth, one on each side of the upper and lower jaws. They are the farthest teeth from the front of the mouth, known as the third molar teeth.
- Molar Teeth (First and Second Molars): Molars are flat, broad teeth located immediately in front of the wisdom teeth. They are found in both the upper and lower jaws, and humans typically have two sets of molars, known as first molars and second molars.
- Wisdom Teeth: Wisdom teeth, when they grow in correctly and align with the other teeth, serve the same function as other molars, aiding in chewing and grinding food.
- Molar Teeth: Molars are responsible for grinding and crushing food during the chewing process, helping to break down food particles into smaller pieces for digestion.
- Wisdom Teeth: Wisdom teeth typically develop in late adolescence or early adulthood, often between the ages of 17 and 25. However, their development can happen much later among individuals, and some may not develop wisdom teeth at all.
- Molars Teeth: First molars also known as “6-year molars,” typically erupt in childhood around the age of 6, while second molars, often referred to as “12-year molars,” come in around the age of 12.
- Wisdom Teeth: Humans usually have 4 wisdom teeth, two in the upper jaw and two in the lower jaw.
- Molars: Humans have 12 molars, with six in each jaw. This includes three molars on each side in both the upper and lower jaws, which includes the wisdom teeth.
It’s important to note that while molars play a significant role in chewing and grinding food, wisdom teeth have mainly become vestigial and often cause more problems than benefits due to their tendency to become impacted or misaligned. As a result, wisdom teeth are frequently removed through dental extraction procedures to prevent or alleviate these complications.
Wisdom Tooth Issues? Aria can help.
An impacted wisdom tooth is a common dental issue that can cause discomfort and potential oral health problems. If you suspect that you have impacted wisdom teeth or are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned, it is crucial to consult with a dental professional. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can help prevent complications and ensure a healthy, pain-free smile for years. Contact our Aria Patient Service department at 9226 2135 to
make a wisdom teeth removal booking.